Council directs staff to save daycare 

Whistler Blackcomb in discussions for long-term lease with RMOW

There's hope yet for the Teddy Bear Daycare, thanks to municipal efforts.

With less than two months left before the daycare doors close permanently, council has directed municipal staff to negotiate with Whistler Blackcomb to keep the daycare up and running.

The direction was given to staff at the end of a long council meeting Tuesday. Despite the passion, which characterized this same discussion just two weeks ago when Councillor Ralph Forsyth stormed out of the meeting in frustration, councillors had nothing to say on the subject Tuesday.

Councillor Chris Quinlan did take the time, however, to thank staff for their ongoing efforts to save the daycare.

After the meeting Mayor Ken Melamed offered this note of caution.

"It's not done. It's not approved."

What has happened is that Millennium Place Society, which is ending its lease with the daycare, will now consider leasing space to the municipality. Staff has confirmed there are no legal hurdles to this option that cannot be overcome. The municipality will then in turn lease to a third-party operator.

Whistler Blackcomb, the operator of the Teddy Bear Daycare, has indicated that it is willing to look at a multi-year lease.

Otto Kamstra, who has been negotiating for Whistler Blackcomb, believes the two parties are close to an agreement, which could span three to five years and give parents some level of comfort that there will be ongoing daycare at Millennium Place.

"We're very excited that council has recognized the needs of daycare within the community," he said.

"We're committed to putting our efforts into it as fast as we can."

Among the finer points that still need to be settled is what would happen to the daycare during the 2010 Winter Games.

Kamstra said there is a possibility that the Millennium Place location could close for up to three months before, during and after the Games and the daycare could relocate to Spring Creek. Parents would need to be canvassed on that option.

Councillor Forsyth was pleased with council's decision and direction to continue negotiations. This should give parents of kids at the Teddy Bear Daycare, he said, some measure of relief that a solution is on the way.

"I think it's tremendous news," he said.

The push to save the Teddy Bear Daycare comes amid a childcare crisis in Whistler. The community needs 140 new infant and toddler spaces to meet future childcare demands.

At the same time, Mayor Melamed pointed to a report that said that daycare is not the highest and best use for that space in Millennium Place in the long term.

He added: "I see it as a temporary move and eventually it will go back to full management and operational oversight of Maurice Young Millennium Place Society."

A decision is expected within the coming weeks.

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